The  SocKETs project is developing six case studies – called SocKETs Labs – to exploit the potential of co-creation in enhancing the innovation process and aligning innovation to societal needs, with a specific focus on Key Enabling Technologies (KETs). This blog issue is focused on the Estonian lab led by AHHAA. It deals with the steps the country of Estonia is taking towards sustainable consumption and production in order to switch from linear to circular economy practices.

The results of the interviews conducted show that there is high interest in the society to switch to more sustainable economic practices and that the circular economy processes are expected to have a broad impact at a social and economic level. But widespread changes will require both individual efforts, as well as national intervention since consumption habits, the ways of doing business and the stakeholders’ expectations towards the results and impact of the switch, will be major factors in determining the success or failure of the process.

The analysis of the situation in Estonia shows that there are two very promising types of KETs-related innovations currently at the forefront:

  • One from the construction sector, namely using leftover wood from door and window production in order to erect new buildings;
  • And another from the artificial intelligence sector, more specifically developing an AI-based screening system for building permits in order to make the first stage of review automated and reduce the workload of human officials.

The main stakeholders in the field identified by the report are:

  • Various companies;
  • Agencies of the local and national governments;
  • The NGOs active in the field of circular economy;
  • Business accelerators;
  • The organisations granting funding to circular economy projects/initiatives.

The report also identifies some challenges faced by the stakeholders in charge of the transition to circular economy:

  • Firstly, culturally, Estonians find it hard to collaborate and this holds particularly true to businesses. Thus, one of the main questions to be discussed while compiling the case study will most probably be how it would be possible to encourage stakeholders to collaborate more in order to create the synergies needed for more circular models of economy to emerge;
  • Secondly, on the geopolitical level, transitioning to greener energy production and abandoning oil shale mining in order to produce electricity is a controversial matter that is closely connected to the socioeconomic status of the Russian-speaking minority who make up the majority of inhabitants in the mining region of the country;
  • Thirdly, it is concerning how the “not in my backayard” attitude has spread like wildfire among people and is currently not enabling policymakers to reinforce changes in certain areas of the country since some very vocal groups are concerned it would upset their habits and daily routines.

In addition to the challenges mentioned, there are also concerns regarding the higher price of circular products and services and the fact that the current tax and incentive system does not necessarily keep eco-innovation practices in mind at all times.

Despite the roadblocks and hesitations, the analysis shows that the stakeholders are very willing to be included in discussions about the topic and express enthusiasm towards contributing to SocKETs public dissemination events planned in the scope of the project, pointing out that by doing so the technology owners would get to run their ideas by the public and the public would see the current status of the development of circular economy models, practices, initiatives and strategies.

Read the report on the Estonian innovation ecosystem.
Read the report on the 6 SocKETs Labs innovation ecosystems.